The Good, The Bad and the Badass: Tom Hanks

Last week, we took at look at the career of big-screen alpha-male Sean Connery. While nowhere near the macho tough guy Connery is, this week's subject is just as much of an icon in his own way, with a career as a leading man that goes back thirty years...

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks has been called our generation's James Stewart in that more than any other leading man of our era, he's embodied the everyman hero. What he lacks in brawn he makes up for in compassion, righteousness, and good-natured humor. He's an actor that's more-or-less universally beloved, and his filmography is jampacked with great films.

It's hard to imagine that Hanks got his start on a low-brow TV show like BOSOM BUDDIES, but his career skyrocketed after being cast in Ron Howard's SPLASH. For the following decade, he was primarily considered a comic actor with movies like DRAGNET, TURNER & HOOCH and THE MONEY PIT. Other than the serio-comedy BIG, his forays into drama were disastrous (THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES).

That all changed with his stirring performance as AIDS-afflicted lawyer Andrew Beckett in PHILADELPHIA, which garnered him an Oscar for best actor. He followed that up with another Oscar-winning part in the mega-hit FORREST GUMP, and from there he's kept his place at the top of the Hollywood A-list, which will likely be reinforced by the release this week of his much buzzed-about CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, which just may be another one of his iconic roles. And heck, I haven't even mentioned his producing work (BAND OF BROTHERS, THE PACIFIC) or his voice-acting (the amazing TOY STORY trilogy). Hanks' career is one of a kind.

His Best Role

My favourite Tom Hanks performance came in Steven Spielberg's 1998 WW2 epic, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Here, Hanks once again played the everyman, but one pushed to his physical and mental limits by the horror of war. It's a brutal, devastating film, and it's Hanks at his most intense. His Captain John Miller is far from your prototypical big-screen war hero, with him being just another guy trying desperately to earn his way home so that he can reunite with his family. Think of him as the anti-John Wayne. It's a brilliant part in a phenomenal movie.

His Most Overrated Film

My choice here is bound to be controversial. I don't hate FORREST GUMP. Actually, I quite like it. It's heart-warming, sweet and well-acted. But, it's not the all-time instant Hollywood classic the world seemed to think it was in 1994. Not only did FORREST GUMP beat PULP FICTION at the Oscars, but it also beat THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, which oddly enough was a huge flop in it's initial release. Time has gone on to prove both PULP FICTION and SHAWSHANK as classics. FORREST GUMP? Not so much. If you haven't seen it in a while, watch it again and be surprised at how cheesy it often comes off as. Again though, it's not a bad film. Far from it. It's just overrated.

His Most Underrated Film

I loved Tom Hanks' nostalgic ode to early sixties pop music THAT THING YOU DO. Hanks only has a small part in it, but he also directed it, and it's a real, wholesome gem. One of the really great things about the movie is how all the pop-bands, from The Wonders, to all the others in the film, all sing original songs composed for the film. It's essentially a musical, and if you've seen it, I guarantee you're humming the title song to yourself right now. The director's cut DVD, which is a good forty minutes longer, is also worth checking out. It's too bad Hanks' next film as a director- LARRY CROWNE- was so bad. THAT THING YOU DO is one that I revisit every few years, and it's sad that the film was all but ignored in it's initial release, despite coming out at the peak of Hanks' popularity.

His Most Memorable Scene

There are tons of possible choices here. JoBlo.com's own Nick Bosworth, who converts all the videos for this column, suggested the Christmas telephone call from CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, which was a tempting choice. So was the department store scene in BIG. But for me, I've rarely been as moved by a performance as Tom Hanks in PHILADELPHIA, and this stirring scene, where he explains the meaning of Maria Callas' “La Mamma Morta” but really expresses his anguish over his looming death, while Denzel Washington looks on mesmerized. It's absolutely brilliant.

His Top 5 Films

3. APOLLO 13
5. BIG

Next Up

Hanks is as busy as ever, with this season seeing another potentially Oscar worthy performance from him as Walt Disney in SAVING MR BANKS. From there, Hanks has another Robert Langdon movie in the works (boring), as well as several intriguing productions in the pipeline, both as a producer and actor. I imagine Hanks will only get better with age, and his choice of projects is often impeccable.

Source: JoBlo.com



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